ActuVisu : ze French visualization

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2010 by datanamics

Bookmark and Share

Discover our latest student achievement. Named ActuVisu, a portmanteau word with Actualités (news) and Visualization, the website will thrive on data to provide powerful, eye-catchy and challenging analyses of the world. One of its kind in France, ActuVisu aims to make up for the lack of data gathering in the French media.

Our press release is available here.

To contact us : or find us on Facebook

Actuvisu : Database journalism in the making



Biggie biggie biggie, can’t you see…

In Politics on April 16, 2010 by datanamics Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Discover a very insightful data-based project led by Richard Saul Wurman, the TED conferences founder and chairman. A prominent graphic designer, Wurman dedicated most of his work to making information understandable for all. Lit up with a genuine passion for geography, the man with a plan wrote over 80 books, including 22 city guides and atlases.

Richard Saul Wurman

His latest piece of work, the 19-20-21 Super city project, happens to satisfy this endeavour. This interactive vizualisation analyzes 19 of the cities of the world that will shelter more than 20 million people by the end of the 21st century. Beyond a catchy title, the project aims to shed light on the unprecedented mass urbanization and its impact on the environment and people.

The mentioned cities, from LA to Jakarta, are chosen as case studies exploring the impact of this population phenomenon. A striking mutation: in 1900, 150 million people lived in urban areas vs 3 billion as I type these words. The figures are expected to reach the 2/3 of the global population by 2050. Hence dramatic shifts to be considered in terms of urban and health policies.

“While some say the world is flat, supercities are rising – vast, intensely urban hubs will radically redefine the world’s future macroeconomic and cultural landscape. Most of the world’s population right now lives and works in cities. Many more will. It’s critical to gain a truer understanding of what’s happening: the rise of supercities is the defining megatrend of the 21st century.”  (Richard Saul Wurman).

Facing a potentially dire situation, the countries of the world can no longer maintain a free-for-all scheme, and should rather come together and reflect on common issues, the study reveals. Many issues are at stake,  such as global warming, fishing or the rise of sea waters. The reshuffle of  the decision making power is the promise of both challenges and opportunities ahead.

“A Globe of Water”

"A Greener Globe"

Hence another power of database journalism : the ability to spark powerful vizualisation, while words struggle to reach out to us when the going gets tough.

Whistleblower : the White Rabbit

“Oh dear, oh dear, I shall be too late !” shrieked the White Rabbit, upstarting. We all know that database journalism is all about storytelling. As a matter of fact, if this 19-20-21 vizualisation was to tell a story, it would probably be Alice in Wonderland, I reckon. Remember, when Alice meets up with the White Rabbit, she becomes trapped in his house after growing too large. World cities are growing, too. The clock is ticking. Let’s not get trapped in Underland.



Rule, data, data rule the waves…

In Politics on April 14, 2010 by datanamics Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Having lived for some time in the United Kingdom, I am always paying extra attention when it comes to political events occurring in good ole Britannia. In the midst of this General Election year, there is plenty of information to gather here and there and we are certainly not running out of data to analyse voting trends.

On your mark, set... : PM candidates G. Brown, D. Cameron, N. Clegg

Months before the outcome, it was agreed that the 2010 general Elections will use a new constituency boundaries system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland the boundaries will be the same as 2005. After the election, there will be 650 seats in the House of Commons, four more than the 646 delimited so far. In partisan terms, the new areas give a net benefit to the Conservatives, an official report from the British Parliament revealed. If the 2005 election had been fought on the reshuffled boundaries, the Conservatives would have gained around 12 additional seats and Labour seven fewer. Hence the many potential outcomes generated and the crucial importance of swing voting.
On Monday, April 5th, the Guardian website provided a visualization of the potential outcomes for the upcoming election.
As explained by Jonathan from Flowing Data, a grid map, a dynamic geographic map and a bar chart allow the visitor to explore the different scenarios of constituencies changing hands.
The swingometer simulates voters moving from one of the three main parties (Labour, Conservative, Lib Dems). It also simulates positions in which there is a general shift from one party to the other two, including where, for instance, a large number of people abandon Labour for the Conservatives and a smaller number for the Lib Dems. Options are the following:
The digital edition of the Telegraph also offers a visualization of the new constituencies with a dynamic political map, aimed to grasp the issues at stake. The map makes it clear that at least a 6,9% swing is necessary for David Cameron (Conservative party) to settle down at 10 Downing Street. Yet it is suspected that the Telegraph’s chief editor would endorse this outcome ASAP, is such a turnaround realistic for the Tories ? What is the trend like ?

Swing in previous General Elections

Back in 2005. The Labour party, led by incumbent PM Tony Blair, wins the UK general election with 35.3% of the popular British vote. The Conservative Party of Welsh-born Michael Howard is just a few points behind with 32.3% of the votes. However, the constituency system endows the Labour with a significant majority with 356 parliamentary seats as opposed to the 198 seats for the conservative party.

2005 election map

Therefore, David Cameron’s party needs a uniform Lab-Con turnaround to win and reach the 326 (50% +1) seats required for a conservative overall majority. Data show that only two general elections since 1979 have witnessed a swing exceeding 5% from party to another. However, since the 1997 Labour landslide victory was the result of a Con-Lab 10,2%  swing, it would be tricky to rule out an identical scenario. Needless to say, the experience of hung parliament is far from common in the UK, with only one example to date in 1974, following a remarkable status quo (-0,8%) in general election swings.

Poll figures
tend to acknowledge the fact that the Tories are about to win their first election since John Major. However, although David Cameron is riding ahead by about 10 points, his 18 points advance from last summer show that the race is getting tighter and the outcome remains uncertain. Many newspapers, such as the Guardian or the Independent, highlight that Gordon Brown still has a fighting chance, backed up with one of Labour’s best ICM ratings since December 2008.


A short introduction by Tim Berners Lee

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 by datanamics Tagged: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

In this video, London-born Tim Berners Lee recalls in which conditions he pretty much invented the Internet, back in the 1990s. To make a not-so-long story shorter, he explains how he thrived on a very casual, daily frustration linked to the incompatibiliy of the documents that were available.

Tim Berners Lee

Twenty years later, as the Internet dramatically shaped the way we live and consume information, something still seems to grind Tim Berners Lee’s gears : the data issue.
But what is data ? Where does lie the difference between documents and data, if any ? Here lies the trick, too often overlooked by policy makers : data is raw information. Alone, data has no significance per se and has no relation to other things. However, when properly turned around and worked on, data can be given meaning and thus create information by way of relational connection. In other words, information is nothing but data that has been translated into a “readable” form that is more convenient to process. Hence the point of database journalism. It is all about finding these relations, possibly cause and effect, in order to shed new light on an unsolved issue.
Back in 1989, Russell Ackoff has the same insight : the proper management of data progressively leads to information, knowledge and eventually wisdom, that encompasses an understanding of all the interactions that facts are made of.

From Ackoff, R. L., "From Data to Wisdom", Journal of Applies Systems Analysis, Volume 16, 1989.

This brings us to the main challenge of data management. The success of the “next Web” as hailed by Berners Lee is contingent upon our ability to bring data together. Besides, this has to be a two-stream effort. While governments and institutions are increasingly urged to release official data, there remains a challenge to linked data developers. A reliable database, say for the French universities, requires processing the vast set of universities, regardless of how long this may take. Therefore, the overwhelming enthusiasm sparked by inspiring statements such as Berners Lee’s shall not overshadow the technical hurdles, in order to create a reliable, mainstream service environment.


A picture is worth a thousand words. A video is a good start, too.

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 by datanamics Tagged: , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

For starters, I think this video is a pretty good introduction to the different notions  of database journalism. Non-geeks can skip the scientific explanations, but all should be equally amazed by the visual quality of the displayed visualizations.

A breathtaking exploration on mapping opportunities provided by worldwide acknowledged Manuel Lima, editor of Visual Complexity.

More information on the Digup website, with an insightful interview of Manuel Lima.